Barilla’s new pasta plant in Avon, NY won Food Engineering’s Plant of the Year award and was honored at FE’s Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo 2008 in Clearwater Beach, FL. Fabio Pettenati, Barilla America vice president of manufacturing operations, accepted the award in a special program on Tuesday, April 8. Logistics drove the Avon project, which puts production within a day’s drive of half the company’s customers. The project built on improvements made in the last decade at Barilla’s Iowa facility and other worldwide locations and introduced a higher level of standardized automation and safety systems than the global manufacturer has achieved elsewhere. The 318,700-sq.-ft. production/warehouse facility went live in July with two lines and is adding a third, with a fourth in the planning stage. Site drawings accommodate a future mill, which will allow Barilla to mill durum wheat into semolina on site. The production floor was designed to allow a doubling in size. In addition to efficient energy usage, plant safety was a big design concern.
Pettenati explained that staff from Barilla’s home plant in Italy and from Ames assisted in an orderly installation of equipment and controls designed to save energy. He described how coordinated, climatologically based controls are linked with the process control system to take advantage of the cooling effect from New York’s winters. The use of VFD drives throughout and high-efficiency fluorescent lighting also save energy.
Rather than use a mix of PLCs, as was the case at Barilla’s Ames plant, the Avon facility standardizes on Rockwell PLCs throughout and uses Wonderware HMI software, reducing the learning curve on equipment and software. In addition, standardization with packaging equipment from Italy, Japan and the US provided forward progress on the project and helped to get the project finished in just one year.
With these two plants operational, the Italian pasta maker has risen to number two pasta retailer (25.6% market share, according to A.C. Nielsen) in the United States since it began US production in 1998. For more details on this success story, see the April issue of Food Engineering.